Screen printing is an art form that just about anyone can enjoy. The materials are affordable and easy to find; simply walk into a crafts store or go online to find a starter kit that contains all of the supplies and instructions you need to start printing. And the process is uncomplicated and straightforward; follow a few steps, allow time for the ink to cure, and your print is complete. But before you unassumingly purchase an indiscriminate starter kit, keep in mind that there is one component to printing that can make your design a picture perfect masterpiece or a disappointing muddled mess.
The screen printing screen, or mesh, is arguable the most important item in the screen printing process. Choosing the proper screen will make all the difference – whether you screen printing supplies are rendering fine details, layering background colors, or printing on different types of materials, all printing projects require ink passing through the screen in order to create the print. It is crucial to select the appropriate gauge and fabrication for your design, otherwise, your design could be compromised.
Screen printing screens come in an array of fabrications. The most common screen types are manufactured from either plastic or metal. Plastic screens, made from nylon, vinyl, low elongation polyester, or monofiliament polyester, are generally inexpensive, and are found at many craft stores and online. Because of their flexible nature, plastic screens can be readjusted and tightened within the printing frame. Plastic is also a sturdy, resilient material that can stand up to repeated use.
On the other hand, metal printing screens are quickly becoming a formidable choice in the industry. Many metal meshes are manufactured from stainless steel, which is incredibly durable over time, making it a more economical option. In addition, stainless steel screens hold their shape longer than plastic, since it is a stronger material from the onset. It, too, can handle the stresses of printing, but will also rinse more cleanly and not absorb ink over time. With plastic, once the fibers begin to wear down, they will soak up more ink with each print.
Whichever fabrication you select, both plastic and metal screens come in a wide variety of gauges. This size of the screen openings, or apertures, will depend on the width of the weave. In other words, the wider the weave, the larger the aperture. This is important because smaller gauged screens will let less ink pass through its openings. As a rule, for larger shapes or backgrounds, a larger gauge is preferred since there are less details being printed. For smaller shapes, delicate detail work, or lettering, a finer gauge is recommended.
Because the manufacturing process has perfected the production of plastic and stainless steel screens, it is easier than ever to create professional-looking prints. While most starter kits will include a screen, it is worth researching the different kinds of screens for the designs you wish to create. High quality screens no longer have to come attached with a premium price.